Featuring The Voices Of: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonso, Larry The Cable Guy, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer, Chris Cooper, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shaloub, Kerry Washington, Lea DeLaria, Margo Martindale, Paul Newman
Directed By; Brian Fee
Plot: Lightning McQueen (Wilson) faces the prospect of retirement as a new class of racers have invaded racing, and he’s struggling to keep up.
What Works: First off, this sequel did get a lot right. I had heard a lot about “course correction” from some of the sequels this year, and Cars 3 probably made the biggest course correction of any of this summer’s sequels. It completely ignores Cars 2, and doesn’t bring back any of the characters. It shelves Mater, doing the exact opposite of what Cars 2 did. Instead of making him the primary focus, he’s very much a side-character whose presence is more as occasional comic relief, instead of being integral to the plot. This film brought Lightning back home, and even has moments where he talks to Doc (Newman) to help ties this film into the first. There’s also Bonnie Hunt as Sally, which the film makes clear is Lightnihg’s girlfriend, even if they don’t know how to show that between cars. The dramatic wrecks are filmed immaculately. I thought it was a real car wreck, and I was scared for McQueen. It was really more intense than I expected. There’s also a profound amount of detail and realism in the environment. Metal fences look photorealistic. Broam Fee really wanted to return Cars to some kind of glory, and I appreciate the work and the energy he put into the sequel. These things did not go unnoticed. Cars 3 is so much better than Cars 2.
What Doesn’t Work: The attempt to recreate the emotional weight of the first film is lost on its core new character, Cruz (Alonso), who is pretty annoying when we first meet her. She doesn’t do anything to earn our trust as his trainer, and always seems in way over her head. Then when she starts racing with him, she’s clearly holding him back. McQueen’s eventual realization that she’s the future of racing didn’t feel earned because she never earns it. She has a big speech about how she wanted to be a racer as a kid, and then reached her first race and kinda chickened out. We’re supposed to feel sorry for her, but we don’t actually like her as a characer. The new characters, in general, lack the audiences empathy. Each of them seems to work only as a catalyst or a plot device instead of the kind of fully realized character that could move merchandise. I hate to say it but… Mater is actually a more well-rounded character than any of the new characters in Cars 3. For a film that was all about getting back to the roots, it seemed more than willing to leave its new entries behind.
Final Word: While there’s a taste of the original glory here, and it is certainly a much better and more appropriate sequel to Cars, Cars 3 still doesn’t get what made the first Cars work in the first place, and fails to generate that same emotional weight that most Pixar greats have. It tries, but ultimately fails to connect the audience to this new story. Cars 3 is at times impressive and surprisingly good, but ultimately emotionally void and underwhelming by the end.
Final Grade: B-